Human Noah's Ark plan for moon
LONDON, England (CNN) -- A Noah's Ark-type base could be established on the moon to sustain life in the event of a catastrophe on Earth, according to Europe's top space scientist.
Dr. Bernard Foing told CNN that while the risk of a nuclear war was low, it was possible that an asteroid could hit Earth in the next 400 years and eradicate life.
The chief research scientist at the European Space Agency (ESA) said on Wednesday one solution would be to set up a permanent lunar base where humans could survive and repopulate Earth after a catastrophe.
While Foing stressed the idea of a Noah's Ark was one he had proposed and was not an official ESA policy, the agency's first unmanned mission to the moon is scheduled to arrive in November. Other robotic probes could follow. (Full story)
"We hope to have the first manned mission to the moon by 2020," Foing said from the British Association Science Festival in Exeter.
"Perhaps five years later it would be possible to establish a permanent lunar base with a closed biosphere where a crew of 10 people could live for 100 days at a time.
"There we could conduct experiments and learn to be independent of Earth by living off the moon's resources: by using solar energy and the minerals from the soil.
"The next project would be to build a real community on the moon comprising hundreds of people of both sexes.
"In the event of a catastrophe on Earth -- either caused by a nuclear attack or an asteroid collision, which we hope would not happen -- using samples of all organisms and a DNA repository, a Noah's Ark could be used to repopulate Earth when it was safe to return."
Foing said the moon -- which man last visited in 1972 -- had an environment most similar to that of Earth so it was a "wise investment" to ensure that life could be sustained there.
He said the ESA was cooperating with space programs in other countries, such as the United States, Japan and China, to make use of all the different systems and resources.
U.S. President George W. Bush announced an initiative this year to spend $12 billion on a new space exploration plan over next five years. (Full story)
He also pledged to launch a manned mission to the moon between 2015 and 2020 and build a permanent lunar base as a "stepping stone" for more ambitious missions.